As you have probably noticed, I have switched my blog commenting system from native Squarespace to Disqus. And you have also probably noticed that if you hang out on my site for a while, a popup will tell you not to kill me for a popup but instead to subscribe to my fabulous newsletter. This is all part of what I told you I'd do: focus on selling my books. You see, this May 15th it's been 5 years since I started writing full-time, and though I soared at first (there was lots of interest in my first trilogy, even from agents), I then painfully crashed into the gulch of despair of not-making-money-as-an-author. For a while I waited for something miraculous to happen, as in, somehow magically Rosehead would get on all bestsellers lists and I wouldn't have to do squat. Well, no miracle happened, and eventually I had to collect myself back together, bone by bone, and climb out (the perfect crisis of the Hero's Journey, by the way). And now I'm on my way back up. I'm not up yet, but I'm getting there. Because my plan is to:
GET MY SHIT TOGETHER AND START MAKING A LIVING FROM SELLING BOOKS.
To do this I have dusted off my rusty start-up brains, and lo and behold, even though I've been only flexing my marketing and selling muscles for two weeks, my numbers are climbing! In the last 4 days, since I put up a popup, I got 14 new subscribers to my newsletter at 12% conversion rate, which is at the top bracket of the industry standard (2-12%). Well then. Let's see what happens when I get my entire system running. And that is:
My website is on Squarespace, and I love them. I have recently transferred my domain to Squarespace from GoDaddy to have all my website needs in one place. I'm on the Commercial Basic Plan that allows me to sell products and accept donations, as well as gives me metrics and connects me to lots of other integrated apps.
I use MailChimp and have been using them for years and love them. Highly recommend. Plus, they integrate with Squarespace so all emails I collect go directly into MailChimp (I also send out my blog posts automatically through MailChimp).
3. CRM (CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS MANAGEMENT)
BatchBook is my choice. I used them for my startup, and I returned to them. How I did book sales without CRM, I honestly don't know. I was stupid. I thought I didn't need to follow-up with my customers. Well, now I do, and the results are already showing. That is, my selling system is not to funnel (I hate funnel with a passion) but to farm. Which means, I reach out to existing customers and they help me get new customers in turn.
Since I ship physical books, it was a big deal for me to automate it—to get ready for shipping large quantities. I recently signed up for ShipStation and loving it as well (as they say, "Get ship done."). Plus, it integrates with Squarespace and Stamps (which in turn connects to USPS and to my HP printer and Dymo scale). Now I won't have to write international addresses by hand. And I can pre-print labels and just drop packages off at the post office (such a relief). Ah yes, about packages.
5. PACKING MATERIALS
Uline is my choice. Once I moaned about this, trying to find beautiful packaging that would match my brand. Then I found it, and now I'm switching to shipping all my books in clean white cardboard boxes. I'll make stickers for them, too, like: "Don't bend! Or the book will eat you."
About that popup I mentioned earlier. I use Sumo. They have all kinds of goodies, like the share buttons you see on the left, and the popups (and you can control the timing—I hate popups that spring into your face right away, so I delayed mine by 20 seconds). Check them out. They're worth it. Plus, I'll be doing more advertising from now on, as there is no way I can get out of obscurity without it, and I used to be very black-and-white about it ("I hate all ads!" I used to say), but free internet is depending on advertising, and I want to see more good and relevant ads, so I'll be adding to the goodness pool.
I'm currently using GoDaddy Bookkeeping, but I want to switch away from GoDaddy as their overall company message makes me feel icky, in particular their advertisement and aggressive selling (they send me automatic emails warning me in BIG RED FONT that my product is in danger of expiring two months before the date—the wording sounding like if I don't renew NOW I would lose it—and then upsell me on other products every step of the way). That's misleading and borderline lying. I tried Xero and loved it, but unfortunately my bank doesn't want to connect to them (it recently implemented a two-step authentication system). So I tried FreshBooks whom I've used before, but they don't import sales. I think I'll go with QuickBooks Online or some other service. Haven't decided yet. Really bummed about Xero because it integrates with Squarespace. Damn.
I was scared shitless to switch to Disqus some years ago when I should've done it. When the first one of you complained that sometimes your comments didn't post to my blog. Oh well. Lesson learned. Why was I scared? Because upon switching it has hidden ALL previous comments native to Squarespace. So ALL your comments from the past years are hidden now. Yikes! But, with Disqus I can track who comments where and import contacts directly into BatchBook so I can create to-dos for me there and thank people. So Disqus won. And, comments are up! Really, I should've done it loooong ago.
Sumo does lots, as mentioned before. And of course, Google Analytics wins. It's free, and it recently started offering some cool new features. If you haven't checked it in a while (my case), be sure to do so.
10. SOCIAL MEDIA
I saved the biggest (and most discussed in terms of book selling value) beast for last. I used to be very active on social media, as you know. I have quieted down a lot, because it rarely brings me sales. It amplifies my outreach, yes, and it helps me build relationships with my readers—with you. So I stopped expecting sales and am now only using it to talk to you about things that matter to us, like writing and reading, and to answer your questions, and to support you with words of encouragement (when you're stuck on the umpteenth draft), and to share moments from our lives. It's all part of the system, but I stopped worrying about the numbers because that's not where my sales will come from, and that freed me up from anxiety of having to post something every day. I can simply be myself.
I don't consider Patreon a selling tool, it's more of a hybrid between connecting to you and getting direct support from you. I'm posting weekly stories there now, and slooooowly my Patreon community is growing. I'll see what happens to it next, but this a direct source of money which pays for books stock and packing materials and some of the tools you see mentioned above. Thank you, my patrons. You give me a little bit of security every month. I love you.
And that's pretty much it. There are also the usual tools I'm sure most self-publishers use, like CreateSpace and IngramSpark for book printing; IndieBound, Amazon, iBooks, B&N, Kobo, Google Play, Wattpad for book distribution; Goodreads for book giveaways; PayPal for donations, and plain old mail for building lasting connections with readers by sending them (YOU) handwritten cards and signed books and, if my budget allows, going to conventions and bookstores to meet my readers (YOU) face to face. No tool will ever replace that.
Tell me if I missed anything. And share your tools. We'll all benefit from it, right? Thank you. I love you. Never stop writing.